The following excerpts have been borrowed, with permission, from an article published March 12, 2014 on the VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station Updates. The title of the post is “An Almost Forgotten History of Native Oysters on Vancouver Island.” It contains fascinating snippets about oyster sales and oyster farming that date back to the 1850s. We have included a few for your reading pleasure.
Rudolph’s Oyster Saloon in Victoria is advertised in the British Colonist (Victoria will not be a city for another three years.)
The first advertisement of oysters from Sooke – “constantly on hand” – appears for the Phoenix Saloon.
An article in the British Colonist, dated October 21, 1862 reads “People do not get enough oysters to eat. Were they cheaper, were they done up in a portable shape and hawked around town, the business would find employment for quite a number of persons. Bringing it down simply to the supply of our little market, it might be enlarged into quite an extensive and profitable business. Oyster eating cities find employment for oyster diggers, oyster growers, oyster boats, oyster sloops.”
There are now four oyster bars advertising in the Colonist – not bad for a community (Victoria, BC) of around 3,000 people.
Less than a month later, a Mr. Hughes is reported to be starting an extensive scale of farming in Oyster Harbour (which we now know as Ladysmith) (Times Colonist 1865.10.11 pg 2).
An official report authored by the Honorable H. L. Langevin, Minister of Public Works, includes some enthusiastic predictions for the fisheries of British Columbia in general and for oysters in particular. “Oysters – Are found in all parts of the Province. Though small in their native beds, they are finely flavored and of good quality. When, in the course of time, regular beds are formed, and their proper culture is commenced, a large export will no doubt take place both in a fresh and canned state. There is a large consumption of oysters in cans on the Pacific coast.”
James Cooper, the Agent of the Department of Fisheries, made the following suggestions from Victoria regarding the benefits of bringing fishery laws to the oyster industry in the Province, particularly by granting rights to individuals interested in oyster culture, a few of whom have expressed interest. “Oyster culture in the Province would soon become an important branch of industry if the rights of individuals were secured to them.”
Inspector for Fisheries for BC, Alex C. Anderson, advises the Commissioner for Fisheries for Canada of the advancements of what was probably the first oyster lease on the coast of BC and about the potential for two more leases. The following year, Anderson reports collecting $50 from oyster fishery privileges and the issuance of just two oyster fishery leases.
Cowichan Indian Agent and Fisheries Guardian, A.H. Lomas, in the 1889 report, calls for seasonal closures on oyster harvesting and suggests that private oyster culture should be encouraged.
At the same time, much attention is being made to the declining oyster resources of the eastern provinces of Canada with many regulations suggested and imposed to limit overfishing and destruction of the oyster beds, to implement harvest size limits and closed seasons, and encouraging privatization of the resource through designation of leases.